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HELP! Need Background critique, ideas or suggestions!

I am not happy with this background, I can't put my finger on it.  I am considering trying other ideas and would greatly appreciate any critiques or suggestions, Thanks!  


  • @rolotomasi, it could be the ambiguity created by the foreground and the background being the same, i.e the area where the shoulder and arm merge with the pattern in front of the plane where the faces sit, is the same as the pattern behind the heads. At least for me, my poor brain is trying to decipher how that can possibly happen, and that optical illusion is distracting me from the main subject. You could try loading the photo into some image processing software and monkey about with trying to separate the foreground pattern from the background pattern. Apart from that, nicely painted  :)  
  • Thanks, I get what you are saying.  I'm gonna mess with this one some more!  

  • @rolotomasi I agree with Roxie. I also think that the values are to high in the background. The effect you have created, which is probably intentional, is of a locket or other smaller painting, sitting on a flat surface. If that is the effect you want you could try blending a shadow all around the edge to lift the image away from the background. If you want a more traditional effect I think a darker foreground and background which allows the eye to dwell on the beautiful portrait you have painted would work really well. Last thought, I’m not sure the green you are using is as complimentary to the rose in the portrait as it could be. Really fantastic portrait filled with tenderness!
  • I like the background, but the girls nose looks crooked, I don't think you took the highlight far enough into the ball of her nose.
  • I think the painting is very good but I agree with some of the other posts in that the background is too distracting. A darker background would compliment the figures. My eyes were too drawn to the background 
  • The expressions are so joyful I couldn't help smiling when I saw it, it was automatic. I don't like the background much either, but have no idea what to do about it -- but I forgave it because of the warmth of their expressions. 
  • Backgrounds are far more important than we think.  Years ago I read an account of a man who was trying to get the local "great artist" to take the man's son as an apprentice.  The local artist wasn't showing much interest until the father said, "He paints backgrounds very well."  The local artist perked up and  said something like, He does . . . well, send him along then. 

    One thing that would probably help your painting is to "gray down" that background to make it less interesting than your subject from a little to a lot darker in value, which will help bring forward your subject.

    You have a few anatomy problems, too, and I think your teeth are too bright.  But these are things you will work out if you continue painting.   There is a theory that you don't start making noticeable progress until you've been painting for 10,000 hours.  Go get 'em.

  • edited December 2019
    The heart shape formed by their faces and the crook of the lady's arm is a cute device. Perhaps too cute. I would suggest making their upper bodies part of the painting and the background dark. But that's all just personal taste and very subjective.  What's important is whether you like it.  :)
  • @rolotomasi  It's not really a background.  It's a background and a foreground all painted exactly the same way, with the faces plonked in the middle. I don't like the vertical hardness of the surroundings. It's jarring against the round warm faces, to me that is.

    I think I would try painting the arms more so that they extend down to the bottom of the picture,  so that the "background" then appears only at the edges and the top of the painting. Then it would truly be a background and you would resolve the conflict.

    Love the cuteness of the heart shape - you don't need to lose that if you paint the arms fairly delicately.  (I'm a bit of a chocolate box person myself) I think when @tassieguy says, ...making their upper bodies part of the painting" he's saying what I'm saying about painting the arms in.
  • Dianna said:
     I think when @tassieguy says, ...making their upper bodies part of the painting" he's saying what I'm saying about painting the arms in.
    Yes, that's what I meant, @Dianna. As it is, the shoulders and arms seem dissolved into the foreground just for the sake of making the sentimental heart shape. It's a pity because I think the faces are really well painted. The foreground spoils it for me. It's like we are seeing them through a heart shaped hole in a shower curtain. But that's just me. Some people with different tastes might like it like that. 
  • I ended up darkening the background and filling out the arms and shoulder which made it so much better.  Unfortunately the client came to pick it up short notice and I totally forgot to take a final picture of it, but she loved it so I guess that's all that matters.  Thanks again guys, your suggestions really helped!!
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